Sunday, December 25, 2011

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Under Authority: Reflections on Sovereignty

But the centurion said, "Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.  For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, 'Go!' and he goes, and to another, 'Come!' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this!' and he does it."  Matthew 8:8-10

Matthew 8 describes two scenes in which Jesus performs miraculous healings.  The first is a leper, the second, a servant of a Roman centurion, a Gentile.  Both are radical, both reveal faith in the ability of the Christ to heal, and both express a willingness to accept His will in the matter.  What has always confused me, however, was the speech of the centurion in verses 8-10.  Certainly, it makes sense that he might feel unworthy in Jesus' presence, but why on earth does he begin to talk about authority?  In the past, it appeared to me as a sort of random rant that had nothing to do with anything.  Rabbit trail maybe?  In scripture?  Probably not.

To add to my confusion, just after this little speech, scripture says that Jesus marveled at his words and claimed to have never witnessed such faith in anyone in Israel.  Maybe he was just ignoring the rabbit trail.  Again, not a likely conclusion.  Tonight, however, I began to understand why the centurion begins to speak of authority.  He was not simply going on about his responsibilities or bragging about his power, rather, he was acknowledging Christ's authority over physical ailments.  He likened his own ability to command soldiers to Jesus' ability to command sickness or pain to do His will.  He understood that this man had authority over our very flesh, and this was why Jesus points out his great faith.  If the servant was not healed, it wasn't because the Son of Man did not have the authority to do so, it would have been because He did not will to do so.

What a hard and awesome concept to wrestle with.  We pray for healing, we pray for miracles, we pray for our way and when it doesn't happen our faith is often shaken.  But what if, along with the centurion, we believed deep within ourselves that our good God has the authority to heal, but may simply choose not to on the basis of a wisdom we can't possibly understand?  We might just live our lives differently.  We might realize that our way may not (is probably not) the best way.  We might even find peace amidst physical suffering, knowing that God is good and sovereign and will not with hold His best from us.

How terrifying it would be to worship a god who did not have this authority?  He could be sweet and all that, but completely powerless, sitting by and watching just as helplessly as one of us.  Do we really want to worship a god like that?  The fact is that He does have authority over all things, that He is good, and that His will will be done.  

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown: Day 30

Wednesday, November 30, 2011:  That I can't do a dang thing on my own.  "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins..." (Ephesians 2:1)  "What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death? (Romans 7:24).  The older I get, the more I realize that at the center of my being, I am a powerless sinner.  In early years, I thought myself a good person.  Yes, as a good reformed Christian I knew I was am a sinner saved by grace and that my righteous works apart from God were like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) but I know that deep down I really didn't believe that, and my thoughts and emotions about other people proved that.  Hatred of sin is one thing, indignation and animosity towards one created in the image of God is quite another.  But over the years, God in His great mercy has begun to humble me.  Not in a self-focused, degrading, "I suck" sort of way, but in a realization that no matter what I do sin is right there with me (Romans 7:21).  Even my "good" thoughts and prayers are marred with the desire to serve or comfort or worship myself, and I often find myself frustrated with the idea that nothing I do is pure.  I am starting to believe, however, that this may very well be the point.  That realization that I am helpless on my own, that I can never hit the mark of God's perfection, and that I MUST rely on the sacrifice and good works of His son for my salvation and the help of the Holy Spirit for Holy living, is true freedom, is the gospel.  The moment I begin to believe I have no need for Christ's sacrifice and for the empowering work of God's Spirit living within me is exactly when I will fail.  I am so thankful for God's infinite mercy, and I can say along with Paul, "Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord"  (Romans 7:24) and to rejoice that "it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."  (Ephesians 2:8-10)  

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown: Day 29

Wednesday, December 7, 2011:  Amy Flach.  We are no longer in the month of November (obviously) but   I would still like to finish up my 30 Days of Thankfulness.  The week after Thanksgiving I got "promoted" (?) to Sales Secretary and began training for the position.  This meant overtime and crashing nearly the moment I got home.  Now that training is over and my brain is functioning outside of work again, I am going to write the last two I meant to write on November 29th and 30th.  For the 29th day, I am thankful for our Accounting Assistant Amy Flach.  She has been so helpful to me at TMC, so encouraging, and such a good friend.  I truly don't know what I would do without her there.  God is gracious beyond my imagination.  Thanks Amy for always being there.